A few weeks ago I submitted a review, or press release depending who you listen to, to Cheers North East; a free beery magazine that you can pick up in Newcastle. Sadly only three paragraphs made it in so I thought I’d post the whole thing for folks to read.
To paraphrase country songstress Dolly Parton, “My weaknesses have always been food and beer - in that order,” so I was delighted to be invited to an evening of both at Newcastle’s The Broad Chare. There is a long history of expert flavour pairings; from the decadence of chilli and chocolate to the double act of botanical-rich gin and its uniquely bitter tonic counterpart. However beer and food is quickly becoming the quintessential pairing.
For several years our American cousins have pushed beer and food as a concept, and with so many styles and flavours, beer is both a perfect and versatile accompaniment to dining. Many people lack the correctly tuned palate to pick out the subtle nuances of one spicy Shiraz compared to another. Beer, however, is as versatile as it is diverse, offering both complementary and contrasting experiences when paired with food.
When chef Terry Laybourne opened his first restaurant, 21 Queen Street, on Newcastle’s Quayside in 1988 it was the start of a North East culinary empire, winning him legions of salivating fans and a Michelin star for good measure. His family of eateries appeals to a wide audience offering up rustic style cuisine, Italian peasant food to fine-dining.
In May 2011 Terry opened the doors of The Broad Chare; a proper pub serving both proper food and proper beer. With its stripped wooden floors and painted brickwork, it’s a bar that is low on fuss yet big on warmth. It’s a fabulous addition to Newcastle’s drinking scene. The Broad Chare marries Terry’s unaffected menu with a fabulous beer list. From bitters to barley wines, the bar is stocked to the rafters with casks, kegs and bottles for all occasions and courses.
It seemed only fitting that Laybourne and his team would collaborate with the North East’s most progressive brewery, Anarchy Brew Co, for their beer and food pairing night. It’s been an amazing 12 months for Anarchy owners Simon and Dawn Miles. If you’ve been in any North East bar recently you’ll have undoubtedly happened upon their lovely Blonde St*r. However Anarchy is not a brewery to rest on its laurels. Instead they have been releasing a steady stream of increasingly forward thinking libations.
From their hop heavy summer-in-glass CitraSt*r to the coffee and rich malted breakfast stout Sublime Chaos, these Morpeth-based brewers are on the march. With new brewer Andy Aichison now wrangling the copper and kettle, the night was a perfect opportunity for Anarchy to showcase their beers along with a mouth watering three course menu.
The opening salvo came in the form of Crime Scene; this Hybrid American Amber offered up a nose of tangerine and pineapple and left a swirling tropic taste in the mouth. This lightly carbonated, cool and creamy number was served as a dinner gong, leading the diners to the first course.
A sharing board of delicious pork pies, Scotch eggs, cauliflower fritters and potted crab came complete with a piquant plate of of pickled veg. A bold, bitter beer was needed to cut through the flavours, and Anarchy’s Quiet Riot was the perfect partner. Fragranced with passionfruit and mango, Quiet Riot lays waste to your taste buds with its full-on flavour.
The main course would have had vegetarians running for cover; a whole suckling piglet. Our porcine pal melted in the mouth, rich and succulent, with the crackling providing a salty crunch. Again, Anarchy brought a dazzling partner to the party; their delicious Anarchy Lager. This SIBA silver medal winner serves up more syrupy fruit then Delmonte ever could. Sweet and heady, anarchic and appetising; a better pairing than Fred and Ginger.
The night was rounded off with a cheese board crowned with Montgomery Cheddar from the Neal’s Yard dairy. Robustly rich and nutty flavours were completed by a grainy, crystalline crunch. With it came the final beer of the night, Sublime Chaos; and sublime it was. Brewed with oats and Ethiopian coffee it’s a viscous, silky stout with dark fruits firmly in the driving seat and richly roasted malts riding shotgun. It was so good I ordered a second for a rousing curtain call.
Anarchy expertly talked the diners through the courses, describing the flavours the diners could expect from the beers and how they would work with each dish. Like a lot of relationships in life, the key to a good pairing is balance and this certainly holds true for beer and food. The Broad Chare’s culinary masterclass danced over my taste buds and was perfectly complemented by a boozy pas de deux with Anarchy. A fabulous night of both fine dining and fine drinking.
“I feel like a pig shat in my head,” the titular Withnail once famously said. I however, felt worse. A lot worse. A night of super high strength beers mixed with the adrenaline-fuelled panic of being hopelessly lost in unfamiliar city had taken its toll. Emma wasn’t faring much better either. An emergency breakfast of eggs, bread and bacon was required. And paracetemol; lots and lots of paracetemol.
Our mission was to make it to the morning session of the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, the two day beer festival organised by Mikkeller, which plays host to the great and good of the international beer world. Now in its second year, Mikkeller had ditched the tried and tested ‘exchange money for tokens, tokens for beer’. Instead they were trialling something more devilish. You buys your ticket, you drinks your beer…until it runs out.
If this beer festival was held in Newcastle this would probably be more pain than pleasure; an all inclusive bar of brown drek sounds ghastly. However an inclusive bar filled with the likes of 3 Floyds, Founders, Kernel, Firestone Walker, Hoppin’ Frog, Jester King, Brodies, Mikkeller and more. Now you’re talking. OH YEEEAAAHHHH!
The CBC is split over three sessions, with the breweries showcasing different beers at each gathering. Hardcore drinkers could purchase a weekend ticket covering all sessions, but the more sensible visitors, including us for once, could plump for just the one. The wonderful thing about staggering the beer launches is that if you make it to just the one session your guaranteed a shit load of world class beer; make it to two or all three and you can double or triple your intake but never have the same thing twice. Well played Mikkeller, well played.
However as we walked the slow and long trudge to the Gunnar Nu Hansens Plads sport hall the last thing on my mind was beer, let alone all you can drink. Perhaps last night’s shenanigans were a tad pre-emptive. To add insult to drunken injury it was incredibly warm. The mammoth amount of booze I’d imbibed had completely bollocksed my internal thermostat, rendering me a sweaty, hungover mess. Check me out Copenhagen.
Doors opened at 1130 sharp and it took us well over an hour to make it to the other side of town. My stomach had settled and the thrashing drum solo in my head had slowed to a steady 7/8 jazz tempo.
The queue was full of characters. CAMRA takes some stick for the bearded weirdos it attracts to its festivals. The same could we be levelled at Mikkeller. Knock thirty years off the average age, ink up with a shed load of tattoos, pour into skinny jeans and that right there is their key demographic. Believe you me I’m aware of the irony, as I fall headlong into this stereotype. However, I’m not from Brooklyn and my bike has more than one gear.
Regardless of the hipster credentials on show it was a raucous crowd with an unquenchable thirst. The queue quickly moved along, carrying us into the sports hall. Our tickets were scanned and our dainty tasting glasses handed over. Now the fun could begin.
The room was split into four rows of vendors; breweries and much needed food stalls. It was only once inside did I realise that the people serving you the beer were the brewery owners and brewers themselves. Holy shit! Forget your volunteers, these people were the real deal and ready to answer any questions you could throw at them. From barrel aging to the brewing process, they were eager to answer and more than happy to chat. Superb.
We opened proceedings with a flight of beers from young Danish upstarts ToØl. These Mikkeller protégés were showcasing their new Fuck Art series. A thirst quenching and juicy IPA was the stomach liner I needed and their Fuck Art – This is Advertising was the rich Belgian Quad it transpired I desperately needed.
I don’t use UnTappd; I see it as a gateway to beer ticking. I rely on a trusty notebook for festivals to try to remember what the hell I’ve drank. This usually descends into unintelligible drunken scrawl that would need the Enigma machine to decipher. I wrote the first two beers down, scanned the tables of twenty plus breweries and put it promptly back into my bag. I was here to drink not document.
We were seemingly in the minority however, as the sports hall was full of beer aficionados hunched over beer lists, sniffing, swirling and sipping as if their lives depended on it. Notes were being scrawled over Excel spreadsheets and decisions made. The tickers here were certainly better dressed than the sorts you get at CAMRA festivals but it was still a familiar sight.
And so we drank…and drank… and drank. It was amazing.
First up we spoke to Japan’s Baird Brewing and their owner Bryan. He told us of the difficulties he’d encountered in the Land of the Rising Lager to create a craft brewery and explained how his taprooms are now helping to change perceptions of beer back home. We spoke to Surly Brewing and tried their wonderful coffee porter. Surly don’t even export outside of their native Minnesota so getting my tastebuds around their beers was a true treat.
We tried three barrel aged belters from Founders and some bottled beauties from Firestone Walker. We spoke to youngsters Anchorage and learned about the owner’s Blackpool roots. We had beer from Against the Grain and Amager, from newbies Siren to established Stillwater. We were assaulted by hops by Lagunitas and had our lips puckered by Brodies’ sours.
We sampled the cherry wine made from the same fruit used by Mikkeller in their Spontinale and head banged along with 3 Floyds. We spoke and drank with Shanghai’s Boxing Cat and learned the story behind their fighting feline logo and drank super fresh New Zealand beers from 8 Wired.
A real highlight beer, and that’s saying something in the company we were in, came from Jester King in the form of their amazing FunkMetal. This stout was Saudi Sheik-rich and Tangfastically sour. I had four; which might explain my somewhat swaying disposition.
Thankfully Mikkeller had the perfect pairing on hand for such thirsty work, a range of locally sourced tasty treats. While punters hoovered up burgers and hotdogs we made a bee line for an organic chilli con carne. The mix of protein and carbohydrates was the perfect support to keep us from collapsing. Oh, and the cheese, the Mikkeller infused cheese. It so transpires that cheese can be made 100% more awesome with an infusion of barley wine and imperial stout. Who knew?
Another intriguing sight was the brand new brewery; Merciless. Taking their logo design from an eighties metal album they were rocking six taps, double the amount of anyone else. Most of their beers were double digits in strength and went by names such as Creeping Death and Human Sacrifice. Russian Imperial Stouts and 10% sours were flowing and the drinkers were flocking to them. However the sign they on display had some drinkers scratching their heads. “Brewery for sale, including recipes.” What?
It turned out Merciless were in fact De Molen. Speaking to one of their brewers they explained that people don’t judge beer objectively when they see the De Molen brand and this time they wanted the beer to do the talking. And bloody hell, it did just that. The two glasses of 19% Eisbock practically floored me but don’t worry, I powered on. With five hours of drinking to be done, I was determined to stay the course.
We met some wonderful people, discussed beers, life, the universe and everything in between; setting the world to rights over glass after glass of incredible beer. This was the beer festival to end all beer festivals. Busy and bustling but not overcrowded, stocked with possibly the greatest line-up of beers anywhere in the world at that given moment. It was sensational.
As the taps started to run dry and the next session rapidly approaching, we decided to beat our retreat. As we staggered our way vaguely homeward it became quickly apparent I wasn’t going to make it. Even a delicious double espresso couldn’t rally my spirits. I was broken and going nowhere fast. We hailed a taxi and tore through the town to my much needed bed.
Admittedly we were back out a few hours later after a restorative nap but at that moment I was overcome with smiles, handshakes, conversation and genre defying beer. CBC2013… done. See you next year!
Back in the final days of Beer366 I was lucky enough to be gifted a bottle of Sauvin 600 from Allendale. This precision-guided hop missile tore my tastebuds a new one and for me, marked a big change in the output from Allendale. Their core range features Wolf and Golden Plover, both tasty drops but more of your standard sessiony fare. However their END series marked a move into more experimental waters.
Thankfully this seems to be the direction they are heading in and bugger me, their beers are getting better and better. I popped into the fabulous Coppers bottle shop last week and was greeted by four gleaming END series beers. How could I resist?
Orange Summit (4%)
Burnished orange with a subtle fruity nose. Chock full of hop character with a worrying glugability. Beer garden beer par excellance.
Black IPA (6%)
Opulent malts almost overpower the party with hops very much in the passenger seat. Lacking the juicy fruit flavours but bloody tasty nonetheless.
Sauvin Saison (6.5%)
This farmhouse beer is an absolute blinder. As tart as a slaggy receptionist, this vinous beauty needs to be stocked by sommeliers to showcase the saison style. One of the best.
Export Stout (7.1%)
The perfect finisher to this flight of beers. Fuller figured, dark and decadent; this would be the perfect after dinner accompaniment. Smokey and sublime.
To top off this run of hits, I sampled Allendale’s 3.1% Fermenta at the Newcastle Arms on Friday. You know Kernel’s Table Beer? Well it’s like that… but better. It needs to be bottled and kegged yesterday; spectacular. At the moment Allendale are a non stop brewing hit factory and are quickly becoming the leading light in the north east brewing scene. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Pester your local purbs and bottle shops to get these in at once. And if you’re up north, get thee to Coppers. Well go on then!
It goes without saying that Danish is linguistically challenging to say the least. The Danes are not afraid of adding additional characters into their alphabet which makea pronunciation trickier than the Sunday Times cryptic crossword. So as Emma and I staggered our way around Copenhagen at 1am, hopelessly lost and unfeasibly drunk, it goes without say even our pidgin Danish was stratospherically shit.
Our day had started early, very early. The 3am alarm call was as welcome as a home invasion, but seeing as we’d traded in a fistful of Air Miles for £30 flights, we had the added indignity of a flight to Heathrow before flying on to Copenhagen. With the taste of toothpaste still fresh in my mouth we entered Newcastle Airport to be greeted by a line-up of departures that read like a Club 18-30 brochure; Alicante, Palma and Ibiza. Such destinations attract a particular type of traveller. Forget your linen suits and Tumi luggage; this was all about the Superdry tracksuits, personalised polo shirts and the heady mix of Blue WKD and Regal King Size.
The sheer number of stag and hen-dos was mind boggling; it was like a Geordie Shore / Mooney wedding party. I have never seen Newcastle airport busier or more punchable. The snaking security queue was like a congo line from hell; tube tops, tan lines and tosspots (there’s your new show right there BBC3).
I’m currently working on another website at the moment called Tyne and Beer Metro. I decided to tick off the Airport station and bars whilst there. A couple of quick beers in both of the bars? Easy. Wrong. It was standing room only in the Eagle Bar, home of classy sights including someone’s mother enjoying an entire bottle of Rose wine to herself and a gentlemen ordering eight pints of Magners Cider. At 4:30am.
The quite frankly bizarre Woolsington Arms however was the true Sodom and Gomorrah of the AMP Capital empire. Packed to the rafters with the world’s largest stag-do all drinking individual pitchers of Carling. This group of characters was a true car crash of humanity but you simply couldn’t look away. Their polo shirts identified each of them with their unique callsigns. ‘Butt Slammer’ and ‘Will Pull The Heed Of It’ seemed to be firm friends, sharing a cheeky round of Jagerbombs. Sadly the anticipated final call for passengers Piss Flaps and Fanny Hockle wasn’t needed, as they downed their pitchers in record time and made their unsteady way to the gate.
Two flights and a couple of soothing G&Ts later and Emma and I were touching down in Copenhagen. It was then the fun truly began. Being a beer blog I’ll shy away from the actual sightseeing we snuck in; the picture postcard beauty of the port, the Little Mermaid and Frederiksberg Park;instead I’ll stick with the boozing, which was done in abundance.
Being sleep deprived, the first day all kind of blended into one, from the beers in the wonderful Laundromat Cafe to the smoky Vinstue 90. Vinstue is a taste of Copenhagen past, a time capsule from the drinking days of the 1920s. The bar itself hasn’t changed much in almost one hundred years. The bar, decor and furniture are all from 1916 and the place is jam packed with smokers and drinkers. But the reason they are all here is for their unique “slow beer”.
Slow beer is actually Carlsberg but dispensed in a completely different manner. The beer is poured without the use of carbonic acid and with a Czech tapper which only pours foam. The glass is completely filled with foam that is allowed to settle. When the foam has calmed down, it is refilled again and this process is repeated 10 to 15 times, taking about 15 minutes to pour, hence “slow beer”.
It’s still Carlsberg but the thick, viscous, creamy mouthfeel is completely alien to the taste. It’s still lacking in flavour but being in this incredible bar and drinking this Copenhagen classic I’ll give the taste a pass. It was here we met barman Nicky, fellow beer fan and soon-to-be marketing man for Mikkeller. He recommended a couple of bottles for us try, an IPA and Black IPA from the Herslev Bryghus. These organic ales were sparkling with juicy hops and an oily mouthfeel. The polar opposite of the slow beer yet the perfect companions.
From Vinstue we headed to the Mikkeller bar, and this is probably where the night took an abrupt left turn. This exquisite cellar bar is the obvious inspiration for Brewdog’s boozers. Clean lines, beautiful glasses and lots and lots of taps.
The staff were surly but the beer was beautiful; brilliant barley wines, sumptuous sours and incredible imperial stouts. We went to town on the taps spending an inordinate amount of money. Oh, by the way, Copenhagen is bonkers expensive; BONKERS. It makes London bars feel as cheap as working men’s clubs. If you’re planning on visiting for god’s sake take more money.
A couple of hours later we sauntered street side only to find that not only were our wallets substantially lighter but we were properly pissed. Sensible people would have taken this as a cue to go home for the night. But not us, instead we found our way to Jernbane Cafe, a pub near the station.
This is a real old fashioned bodega serving up its own specially brewed pilsner, Number 7. Malt heavy and a smattering of hops it’s a damn tasty drop and made all the better by the loud music and great clientele. We joined Pierre and Marianne, a couple from Roskilde, and proceeded to keep up Anglo-Dane relations by getting slaughtered together on locally brewed Imperial Brown Ale. Great beers, great company. Brilliant.
As we staggered out into the night it wasn’t until we boarded a random bus that we realised that not only did we have no clue where we were but also we couldn’t remember where our apartment was. Oh shit! Cue shouting, tears, taxis and alfresco urination. Hilarious in hindsight, awful in the moment. Six hours of restless sleep later and we were greeted with jackhammer hangovers. Thank fuck we weren’t going to a world class all-you-can-drink beer festival in four hours time…
Last Sunday I had the pleasure of attending a pretty special food and beer pairing night in Newcastle. These are slowly seeping into the consciousness of several local restaurateurs, as they realise that not everyone’s palate is tuned like a fine German sports car to detect the subtle differences between a 2004 and a 2005 Shiraz.
Beer and food make the best bed fellows. I rabbited on about it when I visited Ilford Road on my Tyne and Beer Metro voyage. My rallying cry for more beer in restaurants is seemingly beginning to be heeded, albeit slowly. Back in March the fabulous Feathers Inn in Hedley on the Hill hosted Allendale Brewery for a five course beerathon. And last weekend saw local restaurant legend Terry Laybourne invite Anarchy Beer Co, where their delicious range of beers was paired with an equally fantastic three courses.
I wrote the night up for a local magazine and, although I know less than nothing about the print game, I’m more than sure it’s bad form to whack the article up on a blog prior to it hitting the presses. So you’ll have to wait. But, a week earlier I went up to the visit the anarchic lads and lasses in Morpeth to lend a hand in brewing a beer with them.
In fact it was a very special beer; their 100th brew. Anarchy Brew Co, nee Brew Star, swung open their brewery doors in March 2012 and in a little over a year they have become one of the north east’s premier beer pushers. They quickly found their stride with Blonde Star, which at only 4% has found its way into the hearts and glasses of many a session drinker.
However, they didn’t rest on their laurels producing samey session beers, far from it. Instead they rolled out the 7% Belgian influenced Anarchy lager, their Citra heavy summer gulper CitraSt*r, as well as teaming up with HasBean Coffee for the remarkable Breakfast Stout Sublime Chaos. And with Hybrid Ambers and Wheat beers incoming their invention shows no sign of abating.
I’ve become good friends with Simon and Dawn and was elated when brewer Andy Aichison rocked up to Morpeth to kick their mashtun into overdrive. He has recently been joined by Joe Roberts who is lending a hand in helping Anarchy make the big push into kegging and bottling their own beers. Andy and Joe are the two rapscallions behind the Northern Alchemy brewery which is making moves into the north east market. Anarchy Brew Co is packed to the rafters with unabashedly beery folk. And it shows.
I was honoured to be invited along for the test brew. Anarchy know me all too well, embracing my love of potent high ABV belters and didn’t disappoint when I was handed the recipe. A 10%, 100IBU, 100 Minute IPA. Holy Shit!
In fairness I did very little apart from documenting the process. Well, I did hand hops to Andy and talk a whole heap of beer. The test will hopefully pave the way for a full brew of this face melting hop monster. Admittedly scaling it up will be a real son of a bitch.
The beer is made up of nine separate hops with a small amount added every 60 seconds to create a lip-puckering, knee-trembling crescendo that will take your taste buds out the back and beat them up harder than an Italian crime family. All hop bases were covered; from Styrian Celeia to loads of Galaxy. And if that’s not enough it was forced through a hop rocket of yet more of the green coned bastards before being dry hopped on Amarillo, Cascade and Galaxy… for three weeks.
This is monster of a beer that I can’t wait to sample, whilst also badgering them incessantly on Twitter, Facebook and in person to make a full brew. It’s wonderful to see a small brewer celebrating their success in the best possible manner… by brewing a beer more bitter than a jilted bride. Anarchy Brew Co I doff my beer hat to you.
Now brew this beer. I and the internet demand it.
One of 2012’s highlights for me was the Gateshead Beer Festival, and goddamnit it’s rolling round again. Unfortunately I’ll be out of the country this time around. It clashes with my jaunt to Copenhagen but I’ll be at the Gateshead festival in spirit. You can read my review of last year’s festival here.
My home town of Gateshead suffers hugely from a dearth of good beer. Even in well-heeled areas like Low Fell and Whickham you’d be hard pressed to find anything more than a pint of Abbot or Cumberland. It’s hugely short sighted in my opinion. I like to believe, much like Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams, that if you pour them they will come. However, for one weekend each year, the Low Fell Rugby Club hosts a fantastic event which neatly tows the line between your standard beer tickers’ festival and a mini music festival with great beer.
The majority of the north east likes to proclaim their love of beer but most people know less than nothing about it, unwaveringly sticking to Fosters, Carling or John Smith’s. However, Gateshead Beer Festival is a true leveller of the drinking field. For three days the festival welcomes hundreds of people from the local area for 72 hours of music, merriment and loads and loads of beer. People are taken out of their comfort zones and able to challenge their boozy expectations by working their way through a rake of beers from all over the country.
This year is the fourth festival and it looks set to be another blinder. Local breweries will be showcasing their very best beers, including Newcastle Beer Festival Battle of the Beers 2013 winner X2 from Mordue, Out There’s low ABV belter Space is the Place, and the “summer in a glass” stormer Citrastar from Anarchy.
Andy Bourn and his fellow festival organisers have worked their magic once again, sourcing beers from Brass Castle to Black Paw, Liverpool to Lymestone, Green Jack to Gadds. Well over one hundred beers will be available starting at 12pm on Friday 3rd May. Beer not your bag? Don’t fear because there’ll be more than 25 real ciders for you to sample and a Cava bar as well. Epic!
Tickets start at just £5 for the Friday and £8 for Saturday or Sunday. A three day pass comes in at just £20. And you get a commemorative glass thrown in with the price of admission. Each of the three days has a stellar line up of local bands and the beer will more than oil your dancing feet.
You can visit their website here to buy tickets, check the beer and band lists and find out details of how you can get to this great event.
Newcastle has a lot going for it these days, from a fantastic range of pubs and restaurants, incredible architecture and more beautiful bridges than we known what to do with. Newcastle is also home to the Grade I listed Grainger Market, which was designed by John Dobson and opened in 1835. It was originally divided into two parts: the eastern section, which was a meat market laid out in a series of aisles, and the western section, which sold vegetables and constructed as a large open-plan hall. Fact alert! The market is also home to the smallest branch of Marks & Spencer, a stall known as the Original Penny Bazaar.
It’s awesome and I have vivid recollections of being led through the Grainger Market it as a kid. The smell of raw meat, various birds and game strung up on butchers’ stalls, and colourful mountains of fresh fruit and veg are some of my most enduring childhood memories.
The market is also home to clothing shops, barbers, opticians and much more. It’s a microcosm of the former High Street. No identikit branches of Superdrug, Phones4U or the like here. Instead individual stalls serve their own particular niche, including the hilariously named Cheap Tab Shop.
In recent years the market has seriously upped its game. Boutique bakeries and posh patisseries have sprung up alongside fresh fish specialists, coffee roasters and, perhaps most importantly, Mmm… Newcastle.
Mmm is owned and operated by Simone and Ian Clarkin and they sell some of the tastiest treats you can find anywhere in the city. Their philosophy is to sell foods from close to home. But no matter where their products come from, they like to work with small suppliers who share their passion for good food and quality of life.
Their range is remarkable and puts the supermarkets to shame. From exotic herbs and spices to an awe-inspiring range of oils and flour, delicious preserves and chutneys, incredible handcrafted chocolates and everything in between. It’s amazing and their presence has surely helped drive new, innovative stall holders to set up their wares, improving the market no end.
And they’ve only gone and done it again with the addition Glug, retailer of fine beer, wine, spirits and cordials. It’s exactly what the city centre of Newcastle needed. We used to have a branch of Oddbins before that went belly up, but their range of beer was paltry to say the least. Being able to pick up decent bottles in Newcastle without paying pub prices has long been a dream, and Simone and Ian have answered craft beer connoisseurs’ prayers.
First off, Glug looks fantastic, perfectly complementing its foody big sister next door. The shelves and fridges are bursting with boozy goodies and their range will match any meal you could knock up with the tasty array of ingredients next door.
They are stocked to the rafters with local bottles including Anarchy, Durham, Tyne Bank, Wylam and more. It’s wonderful to see the north east so well represented on home soil. But wait, there’s more! Kernel, Red Willow, Buxton; they’re all here. Odell, Anchor, Brooklyn: check! My reddened eyes misted up at the very sight of these delicious drinks.
And the good people of Newcastle are already lapping up the beery goodness as you can see below.
And best of all this is just the beginning. Mmm pride themselves on taking their customers very seriously. Simone mentioned that some of their best selling products were stocked thanks to customers’ suggestions. Personally I’d love to see a range of Gueze and Lambic beers sneaking on the shelves, not just to keep my palate permanently soured but to allow even more people to experience the joy of having their expectations about beer blown away.
Glug’s only real competition in the beer stakes comes from Newcastle’s Fenwicks. However this is a TKO by Glug in the first round. Finally having an outlet stocking such a wonderful range of beers in the city centre is fantastic and will do much to further the conversion of Newcastle from macro to micro.
God bless you Glug, and all who drink in you.
The multi award winning Feathers Inn in Hedley-on-the-Hill is gearing up for its annual Easter celebrations once again. Not only will the weekend involve fine food but also its natural bedfellow - good beer.
Easter Saturday sees a farmers’ market come to the village between 12-3pm. You can meet the pub’s various suppliers and buy yourself some tasty treats while you’re at it.The market is all about celebrating the fantastic range of local produce on offer in the north east.
On Easter Sunday, traditional Sunday lunches will be served from 12-7pm (as always with The Feathers booking is essential to bag a table). Joe Public will also be invited to vote for their favourite beer in the people’s choice competition too.
Finally on Easter Monday visitors can take part in the famous Hedley barrel race, egg jarping, an Easter bonnet competition, BBQ and more. You heard right - a barrel race. Check this out; teams of three will once again struggle up Billy Fail’s field carrying a barrel, before making a dash for the finish line at the Feathers Inn in an attempt to take the crown, which is aptly a full barrel of beer! Registration for the barrel race takes place at 11am and the race begins at 1pm.
Don’t miss this unique local event which always proves to be lots of fun for all the family, regardless of the weather. There really is something for everyone at the Feathers Inn Beer and Food Festival.
I’ve known head chef Rhian since we were bairns. However Rhian has been slightly more productive than I, opening and running the wildly successful Feathers Inn with his wife Helen. Oh, and this was after working in numerous award winning restaurants around the country.
The Feathers has been featured in countless newspapers and TV shows and picked up numerous coveted awards. The place is amazing and the food is incredible. Seriously, you need to go.
Yesterday I was asked to come along and help judge their beer festival. I donned my serious face and cast my reddened eyes over the beers on offer. Ably assisted by three regulars from the pub, we chugged our way through sixteen beers to find a festival champion.
Coming in first place was the hop heavy South Pacific Ale Quiet Riot from Morpeth-based Anarchy Brew Co. It stood head and shoulders above the rest, not just in ABV but thanks to its lasting sweetness and juicy fruit bite. Second place was Allendale’s Pale Ale, an easy drinker with a lovely light bitterness and third place was bagged by Sonnet 43 in the shape of their APA.
However, the judging panel awarded two further awards to Allendale for their bottled offerings. Their incredible Export Stout and delicious Sauvin Saison were noted for being wildly different from the other beers on offer. In country pub terms they were revelatory, hugely flavoured beers that could change the perception of workaday stout and wine drinkers.
It was a lot of fun helping pick a winner in such good company. If you get up to Hedley this Easter you’re guaranteed a fantastic day out. Check out The Feathers Inn website, follow them on Twitter and then whack the following address in your GPS. You won’t be disappointed!
The Feathers Inn, Hedley, Stocksfield, Northumberland, NE43 7SW
On the 21st February, one of my favourite blogs The Evening Brews tweeted;
Just looking at the design of the bottles I knew I had to try them.
Now I don’t live in London, and I certainly don’t get to visit as much as I would like. Being three hundred miles out of the Big Smoke means I miss out on the grand opening of a new brewery seemingly every week. Luckily for me, Emma travels down to London for work regularly and thanks to the incredibly handy Sourced Market in St Pancras, she is able to bring home a sampling of the beer revolution which is currently happening in the capital.
On her recent jaunt Emma brought back four Pressure Drop beers - Street Porter, Wu Gang Chops the Tree, Pale Fire and Freimann’s Dunkleweiss. A real mix of styles, but each uniform in their deliciously designed labels. Needless to say I was itching to get stuck in and managed to keep them for a whole day before reaching for the bottle opener.
They don’t have a website yet so this is what I’ve been able to glean from my research. Pressure Drop was formed by a triptych of friends; former Euston Tap cellarman and London Fields Brewery intern Graham O’Brien, food blogger Sam Smith and Ben Freeman, an engineer with whom Graham interned.
What makes this brewery so exciting for me is their size. You need a macro lens to see them. They are one of London’s smallest breweries, with a 0.5hl kit and work out of a Stoke Newington industrial estate. That’s just a third of a barrel. Get in!
Despite their teeny capacity this three man operation is already starting to attract serious attention. Test brewing began in late 2012 and they are already selling their varied beers at numerous London outlets. They are hungry and talented. Fuck your core beers and staid styles, instead they are taking the experimental route, and have already brewed a Japanese sweet potato beer for Masterchef winner Tim Anderson’s Nanban project.
I’m fortunate enough to try my fair share of beers but I’m really excited about this particular four beer haul.
Pouring a rich black with a quick to vanish tanned head, the aroma of Street Porter takes you by surprise. Surely this can’t be a sub 4% beer? It screams of chocolate, molasses and coffee. The aroma is certainly matched in the flavour stakes. Earthy notes are rounded off with a touch of artisan wholemeal bread slathered in red berry jam. Toffee heavy it slips down like an overly lubed endoscope but leaves a far nicer taste. Just like its namesake Janet, this Porter screams at you with its big trap. As oily as a Sicilian’s diets yet Cava dry on the finish. A perfect porter and fantastically sessionable.
Richly brown in colour with a stained head this wheat beer is sweet and smoky on the nose. Caramel sweets that have have been cooked over a campfire. For me, the taste doesn’t quite live up to the interesting aroma. A odd vegetal mix of flavours confuse what could have been a delicious dunkelweiss. Good but not great.
Wu Gang Chops The Tree (Foraged Herb Heffeweisse)
Wu Gang is a character in Chinese folklore and is known for endlessly cutting down a self-healing bay laurel on the Moon. This downright weird tale is associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival.
There are several versions but the essence of the story remains the same. In a nutshell Wu murdered this fella Yandi for having an affair with his missus. As punishment Wu was banished to the Moon, where he had to cut down a laurel. However, the tree healed itself after each blow. Wu was then forced to attempt to chop the tree forever. Unlucky.
It pours a hazy straw yellow with half an inch of white head. The foraged herbs are definitely there in abundance along with orange rind, wheat and spices. It’s an intriguing aroma and certainly an inviting one. The flavour is chock full of bananary goodness with bubblegum, lemon and cloves a-plenty. Tasty stuff.
Pale Fire (Amarillo & Citra)
Lower ABV beers are becoming big news at the moment, with brewers rushing to prove that aroma and flavour don’t have to be sacrificed when creating weak beers. And Pressure Drop have certainly proved that with Pale Fire. Richly coloured with a lasting head, Pale Fire is more heavily scented than a comprehensive girl’s changing room. However, it doesn’t smell of Impulse body spray and Elnett but instead a heady and delicious mix of super fresh citrus. A real breakfasty mix of grapefruit and orange.
It tastes fantastic as well. Lightly bodied with a mellow carbonation it goes down quicker than a clown’s pants. Pine, lemons, orange are cosseted by the pale malts but without the head splitting alcohol that often accompanies these tasty treats, meaning you could drink it all day. Superb.
I am thrilled to get a hold of these super fresh Pressure Drop beers and truly amazed at how small their operation is. Having tasted these I’m completely bowled over. They are imaginative, agile and able. I’m sure they’ll increase capacity but I reckon their tenacity is a keeper. I’ve tasted initial beers from startup breweries in the past and, while tasty, were fairly dull and lacking spark. I can’t wait to see what Pressure Drop brew next. To paraphrase Clash of the Titans, “Release the Pressure!”
I recently met up with Newcastle beer loving duo Gary (@thealetrail) and Jill (@dassiegirl1) fresh from their four day whistle stop beer tour of New York. During their jaunt they were invited to drop into the Sixpoint Brewery by Frank Kearl and Andy Howk, where they were treated to one or two samples from the Sixpoint goody bag. Last year Gary and Jill graciously tipped in a number of epic beers into the Beer 366 maelstrom including the immense World Wide Stout and pumpkin pièce de résistance Painted Ladies.
What I received from them was quite unexpected; five cans from Sixpoint, a can of the Alchemist’s Heady Topper and a bottle of the un-fucking-believable Nitro Milk Stout. It is safe to safe I have reached craft beervana. This incredibly kind gesture was given on the proviso that these hop heavy beers were drank fresh to preserve their rich flavours and beautiful bitterness. Gary has been railing in favour of drinking hoppy beers as soon as possible to prevent them losing their kick.
Who was I to argue?
So, it’s back to the reviewing well once more. Will these craft cans knock me for six, or leave me stumped. I won’t leave you hanging, it’s going to be the former… and here’s why.
Sixpoint was founded in 2004 by Andrew Bronstein and Shane Welch who met as classmates at the University of Wisconsin. Manhattanite Andrew stumped up the cash needed to lease facilities and begin brewing. Milwaukee native Shane, a former homebrewer, created the initial recipes.
They originally distributed kegs to local bars and restaurants; instead of bottling their beer, filling growlers at bars was the only way for customers to drink the beer at home. They began canning in June 2011, releasing four varieties: Sweet Action, Righteous Ale, Bengali Tiger, and The Crisp. They also began releasing seasonals the following fall with Autumnation, and Diesel in the winter.
The brewery might be relatively new but their name is connected to a symbol that has been synonymous with the craft of brewing going back centuries. On their awesome website they say, “Since at least the year 1300, brewers adorned their barrels and breweries with a six-pointed star. By the 1500s, the star became the official insignia of the Brewer’s Guild, one of the first trade guilds of Europe. The star symbolizes the purity of the craft, and folklore claims the six individual points each represent six different critical elements of the craft itself: grain, water, hops, yeast, malt, and the brewer.”
“At Sixpoint Brewery we acknowledge the history of the craft, while forging ahead to create new styles. The forging ahead is symbolically demonstrated in our logo, where the ancient brewer’s star has been influenced by the nautical star to create an entirely unique creation, the Sixpoint Brewery star. Our original brewery, located one block from the waterfront in Red Hook, Brooklyn, is rife with maritime history. The nautical star was a navigational device for seagoing travelers during their nighttime voyages. Just as the stars navigated them to their destination, the Sixpoint star navigates you to good beer.”
The microbrewery is located in a 7,000-square-foot factory in Red Hook that formerly manufactured filing cabinets. Hurricane Sandy attempted to tear the brewery a new one late last year, but thankfully the damage was lighter than expected. They turned to Twitter to vent their ire at the storm, “#Sandy was a bitch”. Indeed she was. Others in the Red Hook district came off a hell of a lot worse. The brewery suffered flood damage, but with power quickly restored they are working to get everything back on track. So that’s their story, but what are their beers like?
I decided to start this run with something nice and light, a lager to cleanse the palate and prepare for the hop onslaught; Sixpoint Crisp it is. As always I poured some into a glass for the standard photo but goddammit these beers come canned and that’s how I’m gonna drink it.
It’s a rich and hazy golden hued beauty that was initially topped with an enormous head of suds; think Kid from Kid and Play and you’ll get the picture. Once it had a word with itself and calmed down, The Crisp let off a lovely aroma of sweet bready malt with an undercurrent of tropical fruit. A can of Budweiser this ain’t.
Bearing in mind this is a lager, it tasted fantastic. Leafy hops play nicely with the baker’s malts. As crisp as hospital bed sheets, Sixpoint named this number bang on. I’d more than happily play up to the Geordie stereotype by sinking a slab of these on any train journey. Someone please make this happen.
I love American Brown Ales; Anchor’s Breckle’s Brown and Short’s Bellaire Brown were two standouts of the style from Beer 366. This ten malt beauty comes canned so already wins points from me. Pouring mahogany brown with a juxtaposed cream coloured head, the sumptuous aroma of toffee, nuts and hops gave me an immediate Appetite for Destruction.
Well I tried to drink a little but a little wouldn’t do it, so a little got more and more and it’s easy to see why. Chocolate and caramel meet that delicious American Brown Ale bitter bite. It’s possibly best reviewed by adopting an Axl Rose impression and singing.
“I’ve been dancing with Mr. Brownstone
He’s been knocking
He won’t leave me alone”
I first tried this beer when I visited New York myself so it was wonderful to jog my memory by cracking open this can hop-ass. Hazy orange in colour and topped with a thick and lustrous white head, it certainly looked the part. Lights, camera, Sweet Action! A big waft of hops dance over the nostrils, peppering them with sugared pine.
And it tastes fabulous, the marriage of sweet toffee and grassy hops certainly won’t be landing in the divorce courts anytime soon. It doesn’t come with the thick mouthfeel that you would expect. There is an odd yet flavoursome hint of buttermilk which is balanced well with bittering. Imagine a boozy cream soda and you’re on the right tracks. A canny can of cream ale indeed.
Sixpoint’s take on the on the century-old English IPA comes complete with a shit ton of East Kent Goldings thrown into the mix. Burnished orange in colour and wearing a jaunty head of off white head Bengali Tiger positively reeks of hops. So pungent is the aroma that I was half expecting the police kicking down the door to check my loft for an illicit horticultural business.
Tropical, juicy flavours pummel your palate with each and every sip. There’s a soupcon of toffee to hold it all together but this is certainly case of hip hip hops that won’t stop. As fresh and dry as a Kotex factory, this is a heavy hop hitter than could leave the uninitiated out gunned. This is possibly what William Blake wrote ‘The Tyger’ about. “Tyger! Tyger burning bright” indeed.
Sixpoint sum up this pantella slim can thusly, “Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans… and put them in one vessel. The beans of bygone brewers, united with cacao and coffee, to create a trinity of roasted, rich, and savory flavors.” It’s made with Stumptown Coffee from Portland and chocolate from Brooklyn chocolatiers Mast Brothers. After a night on the hops it’s always sensible to reach for an after drinking beer, something to widen the eyes and keep you on your feet. 3 Beans sounds just like the right beer.
Pouring darker than a Stephen King compendium and complete with a stained head that laces the glass like a Belgian anti-macassar this beer has an aroma to die for. For a dark beer lover it takes your knees out from under you. Rich coffee, richer chocolate and more heavily loaded with creamy sweetness than Augustus Gloop’s suitcase. The smell alone has me ready to walk this beer up the aisle.
Fuller bodied than Sunderland’s bariatric ward and boozier than an alcoholic’s Christmas party this is a seriously great beer. Espresso meets cocoa in a no-holds barred match to the death, and you can’t look away. Dark fruits jeer from the sidelines while floral hops act as the hypemen for this epic showdown. This should be everyone’s early morning tipple. Lasting and layered, this libation is, well, lush.
With Sixpoint proving again that canned beer can be incredible, I should really draw a line under this boozy odyssey. However, there’s one more can that really must be mentioned, Alchemist Heady Topper.
This RateBeer favourite came to the UK courtesy of Ted Kenny, owner of TopHops, New York’s premiere beer shop, tasting bar and general centre of the craft universe. Gary and Jill met up with Ted on their visit to swap over some beers.
Check out the Top Hops website here. Their ethos can be summed up in this cut and paste paragraph,
“Top Hops offers more than just beer. We host a wide range of educational events, book signings, brew masters visits, and food pairings. We foster appreciation for the craft, history and taste of great beer. We are not just merchants, but advocates as well.”
TopHops line up will make you want to cry it’s that good, so it seems only fitting that Ted would swap over something as highly rated as Heady Topper. It’s one of the those beers that’s on the must drink list but you wonder if you’ll ever manage to track it down. So, it’s with great honour that I crack it open. I’m doing this for you dear reader, remember that.
I drank this from the fantastically designed can, I mean, it did tell me to, so who am I to argue.
Opening the ringpull was like pulling the pin on a hop grenade; the awesome aroma pre-empting what’s about to happen. Heady is the right name, thick with pineapple, orange and grapefruit, sweet with just a touch of cat pee. This is a hop head’s wet dream.
The flavour falls open like a well thumbed copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover; to the best bits. A resin-soaked rag is held firmly over your taste buds until they submit to the hop attack that is taking place. As you lie back and think of America, a swirling elixir of of caramel and fruit takes your breath away. Alchemist essentially roofys you with hops but sadly it’s over all too quick as the contents of the can are greedily hoovered up; dangerously drinkable and absolutely outstanding.
Huge thanks again to Gary and Jill for this six pack of delights. I’ll be holding on to my bottle of Nitro for as long as I can. I wrote this about it last year on International Stout Day if you fancy a look. Click here for Milk Stout with that added Chase HQ twist.
Things might seem all quiet on the beery front here at the moment, but after a year of daily posts what do you want blood?! Only kidding, it’s actually all kicking off over on TyneandBeerMetro.com; it’s a boozy guide to the nearest bars to the stations of the north easts’ light rail system.
You haven’t looked at it yet, come on fellah, let’s not be a dickhead eh? It’s full of local history, inflated opinion and hilarious observational bullshit. And, it’s only just started. This year, @PJ, @minkewales and myself will be visiting all of the stations and providing you with our findings. You should jump aboard, I promise you’ll love it, although that promise cannot be backed up in any way.
We, well PJ, has ironed out the gremlins in the subscribe section so you can have Light Rail / Shite Ale bullshit delivered to your electronic mail account each and every time we update the site. The cost for this incredible service; nothing. You’re welcome.
OhBeeryMe was concocted on the Tumblr platform by your truly about fifteen months ago. I find web coding, html and all that type of stuff a grade A ball-ache. As such I settled on the platform most used by fifteen year olds with a love of Harlem Shuffle videos and Gif animations. It makes things super simple for a workshy alcoholic like me.
However, I’ve gone and pissed on with a newsletter service so you can have what I write here sent to where you read it there. I swore at my laptop screen. A lot. Look up at the top right hand corner; see where it says Newsletter? Click that, type in your email address and apparently the internet does the rest. I promise not to sell your details for handjobs and that.
Right that’s the housekeeping dealt with. I’ve got a rake of epic canned beer to sup my way through. I’ll tell you all about that soon. And wait until I pull my finger out and write about the shed load of thirty year old special edition beers I’ve got my hands on. And there’s more to come. So sign up. Or don’t. I’ll still love you.
There are two thing that are intrinsically linked; beer and music festivals. They make tremendous bedfellows. However, as anyone who has trudged through the often muddy fields of Glastonbury, V or T in the Park will know, the beers on offer are usually grindingly mediocre. And that’s if you’re lucky.
Well, beer and music lovers can now rejoice, as there’s a new festival in town aiming to mix it up; or should that be mash?
The Mash Up Festival is the beer child of Morpeth-based Anarchy Brew Co who, not content with putting out some of the best beers in the north east, have decided to throw a music festival just a stone’s throw from their brewery. It’s happening on the 27th April and looks set to be incredible. I spoke to owner Dawn Miles to get the lowdown on this boozy venture.
“Simon and I have always loved having friends over to listen to music and check out our beers, so this is just a larger version of that! Naturally we love beer and adore music so we decided that it was time to put Northumberland on the map with its very own music festival.”
And they’re not doing things by halves. The Mash Up Festival will have two stages showcasing sixteen of the best bands in the region. On top of that there will be DJs, street food, oh, and lashings of great beer.
“All of our beers will be available along with a very special new beer that we can’t wait to show off,” said Dawn, without letting on what this new tasty tipple would be. However, if the incredible Sublime Chaos, Quiet Riot and their Belgian influenced Anarchy Lager are anything to go by, it’s bound to be a stormer.
This isn’t just a one off either. “We hope the festival will get bigger and bigger, we’ve got more than enough space near the brewery,” explained Dawn. “We have plans to expand and improve it next year already!”
This year you’ll be able to see
MAIN MASH UP STAGE
SECOND MASH STAGE:
We Are Knuckle Dragger
Patched Up Heroes
And more for just £15. Bargain. Tickets are available from See Tickets
And if you are in Newcastle tickets are on sale at The Bacchus, The Free Trade Inn and The Cumberland Arms. To top it off camping is available on site for just £2.50. You heard: £2.50!!
Follow the latest happenings on Twitter and Facebook
See you all in late April.
Meet the Brewer events are always fun; informative and undeniably boozy affairs full of fascinating insights into how breweries get started and where the ideas for beers come from. The Free Trade has a great track record for these. From Durham to Summer Wine, some of my favourite brewers have made the trek to Byker to impart wisdom on the punters. Thursday saw Huddersfield’s Magic Rock make their first Meet the Brewer in the true north. And bugger me it was superb.
The bar was stocked with a Magic Rock hit parade; Simpleton, Curious, Rapture, High Wire, Dark Arts, Clown Juice, Cannonball, Bearded Lady. Christ on a beery bike. With a mix of cask and keg offerings the assembled masses were able to compare the differences between the two dispensation methods. With a few CAMRA members in the bar this could prove to be contentious. For me though, keg it all. KEG. IT. ALL.
Now I love Magic Rock. LOVE THEM. They are the sort of brewery that almost has no place in the UK market. Their beer tastes imported and their aesthetic takes practically every other brewery out behind the woodshed and shoots them. Bold sans serif font blend effortlessly with comic graphics. They look and taste the fucking business.
Rich and Stuart held court at the far end of the bar explaining how Magic Rock got their start. The pair extolled their adoration for American hops and crisp, clean flavours. For Magic Rock it’s all about aroma. They want their beers to both taste amazing and smell amazing. Amen to that.
I covered the Magic Rock story with my second review for Beer 366 which was of Human Cannonball. Read it here for the low down on the brewery and that incredible beer which was conspicuous in its absence sadly.
Of course cask and keg reared its head but Magic Rock’s explanation was plain and simple. Cask does offer more subtle nuances but only for a tiny amount of time. “If it’s been on for more than twelve hours there’s no point, “ offered Rich, “while keg remains the same for a week or more.”
It was interesting to hear that Rich got his start in graphic design. It was his love of the art which led him to using the insanely talented Richard Norgate for every aspect of Magic Rock’s look and feel. Check out his portfolio here, it’s tremendous. Design is almost as important as the beer to this brewery; a fact they should be applauded for and every single other brewery should sit up and take note.
They explained that they have recently travelled around the West Coast of America. “For research purposes!” interjected Stuart. Their visit might have been beery but they spent their time learning the tricks of the hoppy trade from the American masters. I’m more than sure some of this know-how will appear on bars up and down the country soon to blow your mind.
The night grew incredibly messy from a drinking point of view. I didn’t seem to be without a glass of Cannonball from about nine o’clock onwards. However, through the haze of beers I had a great chat with Rich and learned about some liver-defying beers which they have coming. I won’t spoil the surprise but tell your doctor to book you a bed at hospital. You’ll need it.
The night marked my debut tasting of Simpleton, a driving beer par excellance. Light bodied and crisper than a Walker’s factory. I could only drink about a keg’s worth of it though. Lush.
The dark damsel Bearded Lady was on hand to round off the night as well. I wrote this about Bearded Lady back on Valentine’s day last year. It still remains true and she is still one of my favourite beers full stop. Epic.
It was a superb night, so thanks to the under the weather Mick for organising the night and a tasty buffet which would have held off the hangover if I hadn’t drank, well everything. And thanks to Magic Rock, both for existing and for making the trip up. Send more beers soon.
It turns out when your write everyday and stop dead you miss it. Who knew? So I’ve started something new, a project that should keep me busy for the rest of the year. I’ll be drinking away around my local Tyne and Wear Metro lines and writing about it.
Local history, dodgy pubs, iffy booze and much, much more.
Truth is drinking around the Metro line is a bit of northern tradition and great way to drink yourself daft. However, I’m trying to create a bit of a guide to the whole thing, along with some hopefully interesting stories.
The site is up now and will be added to throughout the year. At the moment I’ve got four posts on the site ticking of Central Station, Momument, St. James & Haymarket; all of the Newcastle city centre stations. I’ve also written this overview, which is easily the longest bit of writing I’ve done for sometime. Hopefully it explains why the hell I’m doing this.
So if you get a minute check out TyneandBeerMetro.com, I’d appreciate it. I will still be posting here and letting you know when I get round to writing about more stations. I have four more posts almost finished, so with about 16,000 words done in the last two weeks it turns out I’m typing more than ever.
What have I done?!
London; home to the world’s first subterranean railway, jellied eels and chim-in-nee sweep Dick Van Dyke. It’s also home to a staggering amount or breweries. In 2006, when Lily Allen and Razorlight were still things of supposed cultural relevance there were only fourteen breweries in the capital. By Mid 2012 there were around thirty.
As of February 2013 you’ll find a staggering 44 listed on London Brewer’s Alliance website. Admittedly Fuller’s have themselves on that list and supermarket favourite Meantime,but that still leaves over 40 microbreweries rustling up all manner of interesting ales for people in that Lahndahn.
This hops, yeast, malt and water explosion is seemingly indicative of the entire country. Within the relatively sparsely populated Tyneside and Northumberland area we have more than 30 breweries currently operating, with two or three more in the offing. It’s an exciting time, and one that should be applauded and embraced.
As such I thought I’d give three of London’s newest breweries a whirl. These beers were picked up by Emma on a recent work trip to the Big Smoke, gawd bless her.
Now, I’d never even heard of this brewery until I Googled them. Following the completion of Beer366 I’ve been slowly unfollowing breweries and beer retailers, which has been a cathartic and cleansing ritual, trying to be bring some balance to my Twitter. A ritual that has, however, left me lacking in new beer and brewery knowledge.
The Brüpond Brewery website offers up a potted history of the brewery and an “about me” section of the brewer and owner. What it’s lacking is his name. Coming to the UK by way of Colarado and hankering a beery crush on both Sam Adams and the Kernel, Brüpond Brewery seems to exist thanks to crowdfunding. Something I’m sure we’d all love to hear more about.
Their aim is to be to be innovative and create amazing beers that will take the drinker around the world from their arm chair. A noble aim, but one that could be better served by rewriting their copy on their site. Some drinkers want a little guidance of their flavour journey, with Brüpond as their Sherpa.
The beer sampled, Tip Top Hop, was described as a, “continually hopped IPA with dry hopping during the secondary. What does that mean? Well most IPA’s have 3 hop additions, at the beginning, and two near the end. Not this one, oh no, we just keep adding. This builds a complex hop aroma and flavour. Placed atop a simple Malt bill helps accentuate that hoppy zing that we all look for!”
I’d hoped for something along the line of the 500 Minutes IPA from Arbor. However, what I got was more a 5 minute version. A tasty enough beer which sadly finished off with an astringent bitterness. For me it was a solid malt backbone but thin hop wishbone; the fruit flavours were a little lost. However, I love their tenacity and crowd sourced finances, even if they didn’t explain it very well. They are young and eager and I’m sure they will in improve with age. I’ll keep a watching brief.
The Crate Brewery
The Crate Brewery are situated a stone’s throw from the Olympic Park, at the edge of Hackney Wick. A location that I’m more than sure had their tills ringing last summer. They are a brewery cum pizzeria. It’s a lovely looking gaff where you can sup on lagers, pale ales and bitters while gorging yourself on stone baked treats. I know a fair few people who’ve visited Crate and loved it, yet I hadn’t even had one of their beers.
The first thing that struck me about their IPA was their awesome aesthetic. Simple typography married with a high quality label stock won me over before I’d even cracked the cap open. Oh, and they have a map on their label as well. Sweet. Clean design is like rocking horse shit in the brewing world, with many brewers favouring labels that have clearly been knocked up in Microsoft Publisher. Well played Crate, well played.
I really liked this IPA. It tasted like a beer infused bubblegum; specifically a tube of Tubblegum, if you remember that one? However it was filtered and not bottle conditioned. It might keep the beer pin bright but it loses so much more than clarity in the process. In my mind it’s the equivalent of pirating a video using two VHS decks.
Any cinephile worth his or her salt who was born the eighties will have done this, and found themselves with a fuzzy version of the original film. Sending off your beer to Cumbria for bottling might well supply the market better but it’s always a sub-par version of your beer. I implore smaller brewers to invest the time and energy to do it themselves. Your drinkers will thank you.
Based in De Beauvoir Town in Hackney and opening its doors in February 2012 as part of the brewpub Duke’s Brew and Que, Beavertown are already the complete package. Rock star progeny Logan Plant has instantly created the look and taste that 99% of other breweries would kill for. I tried their Imperial Smog back in November and fucking loved it, but now I’m getting to sample their flagship; Black Betty.
Taking it’s name from the 19th century.folk and work song that’s been covered by everyone from Lead Belly, JSBX, Ram Jam and to the awful German techno quintet Scooter. Black Betty is swooned over by drinkers the length and breadth of the UK. A Black IPA par excellence, or so I hear. A beer that strikes the perfect balance between roasted malts and heavyweight hopping is what I’ve heard. A sumptuous blend of toffee, cocoa, grapefruit and liquorice, if you believe the hype.
The first to the last sip of this Beavertown beauty can be summed up in a concise lyric;
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-A-Lam)
This bottled trifecta of beers offers a glimpse into the three ages of new London breweries. From Brüpond’s first tentative steps into the market, to Crate’s expansion to Beavertown’s dominance. Admittedly Beavertown have done it in record time, possibly due to his rather fortunate family connections, but Plant certainly has the skills to prove his position. It might have only taken Logan and his staff a year to rise through the ranks to the fop flight of the London brewing league table but others are hot on his heels. As long as there is passion, commitment and hard work there will always be brewing, and it’s our job to celebrate this.